Trimming the coral garden to keep its inhabitants in tip-top shape is by far the best part of tank maintenance a successful reefkeping aficionado performs on a regular basis. Fragging corals brings joy to one’s face, whether the purpose of such a task is to transplant them to other parts of the tank/other tanks, trade these transplants with other hobbyists, or to sell them to make some extra cash and feed the addi.. passion. Like with everything else in life, a job well executed requires proper tools. Sure, you can use your sister’s manicure toolkit when she ain’t looking, or snatch your spouse’s electrical pliers to try to snap that holy grail Acropora you’ve been growing for the past 2 years, but it’s not really proffesional (and potentially dangerous) to use fragging tools that are not really fragging tools. Just like a plumber needs a wrench and a mechanic his/her 10mm socket, every respectful reefkeeper should own a dedicated coral propagation toolkit.
Coincidentally, I have one that I’ve been using on my personal tank for the past few months right in front of me and since I promised the company who made it to give an honest opinion about the kit, let’s take a closer look at this member of an often omitted yet essential segment of saltwater aquarium equipment and see what we have.
The product in question is called Premium Coral Fragging Tool Kit and it’s made by Tamsco, a Chicago-based manufacturer of precision instruments. Although Tamsco is still a newcomer to the aquarium markets, their aquarium-oriented division is but a small slice of a much larger portfolio of specialized instruments that span many fields- they make medical and dental instruments, scientific tools, and personal care implements. Even their pet market catalog is huge- shears, grooming tools, herpetology tools, equine and veterinary instruments, you name it.
It’s truly impressive how many different tools Tamsco makes (look at the Tamsco website to see just how much stuff they manufacture), however, what I received for this review is a textbook example of a coral farmer’s ultimate toolkit. Premium Coral Fragging Tool Kit comes with 5 essential fragging tools organized in a sturdy suede zipper case. The tools are made out of Black Oxidized 420 Japanese Stainless Steel that goes through several processes aimed to improve its durability and resistance to corrosion before it ends up in the kit. I will describe these processes later in the article as they are quite interesting to learn about, but let’s first take a close look at each of the 5 tools that come in the kit.
The “star of the show” must be the large 7.5” (190mm) bone cutter, a tool made for one task only- cutting large fat SPS branches. It has a 1.5” (39mm) cutting area and opens up to 2.5” (70mm) with spring action starting at 0.75” (20mm). It uses a double leaf spring mechanism, which in my opinion is far superior to the common spring mechanism that tends to fail rather quickly when exposed to saltwater. Other features include grooved handles and a characteristic blue handle grip made of grippy PVC. A true Staghorn destroyer.
The 6” (150mm) bone cutter or the delicate SPS fragging tool of choice, features the same elements as its larger cousin, except for its more aggressive cutting angle to get to those tight spots in large coral colonies. It has a 0.75” cutting length, and opens up to 2.5” (635mm) with spring action starting at 5/16” (8mm).
For the soft corals, we have the 6” scissors with 2” (50mm) cut length. Same build quality as the bone cutters, same blue PVC dipped handle. Sharp pointy tip. Nothing more, nothing less.
For the surgical precision type of fragging, we have a 45 degree angled knife handle that accepts standard surgical steel blades (3 included with the kit) and features PVC dipped handle tip and knurled grip for better control of the blade.
Finally, last but not least is the 12” (305mm) angled tweezers with the same PVC dipped tips. They look and work just as you would expect they do, there’s nothing more to say here.
As I mentioned before, there are two main areas fragging tools need to excel at in order to be reliable- resistance to corrosion and quality of steel. Tamsco covers the latter by using a 420 stainless steel that, albeit softer than other SS alloys, offers great native resistance to corrosion. To strengthen the steel where it matters the most, the cutting surfaces of all cutting tools that come in the set are further tempered/emblazed at the tips. In terms of rust resistance, there’s a lengthy procedure to it too. First, the freshly machined elements undergo a process of passivation that strips the surface layer of the steel of its iron content, which by itself increases the steel’s resistance to corrosion by a large margin. The final step before the tool lands in the hand of a skilled coral chopper is black oxidation, a process of creating black iron oxide layer on the surface of the steel that further increases its corrosion resistance. Plus, let’s be honest, it looks amazing.
So how well do Tamsco tools fare in the harsh environment of repeated saltwater dips? Pretty damn good… with proper care that is. All the cutting tools included in the Premium Coral Fragging Tool Kit perform just as you would expect from a bunch of quality made coral fragging instruments. They keep their edge sharp (especially the large bone cutter, I cut some questionable materials with them-don’t ask- and they are still as sharp as new) and remain rust-free after over a year of use. It’s not revolutionary for this type of tool per se, but it meets expectations. The key to keep these black oxidized tools rust-free is to always rinse them in freshwater and dry them after use.
I have to admit, I do it for all the tools except tweezers. For some reason, I’m just too lazy when it comes to cleaning my tweezers, maybe because I use them on a daily basis and just don’t want to be bothered cleaning them. Anyway, the Tamsco tweezers hold up good, they do show a small rust spot, but who am I kidding, there is no such thing as rust-free steel if you expose it to saltwater and don’t take proper care of it.
The only downside I have found and honestly, that may be a matter of personal preference, are the angled tweezers. I much prefer straight ones as they are better to maneuver in tight spots. Better yet, I wish both were included, but hey, you can’t have everything, right?
In summary, I can recommend Tamsco Premium Coral Fragging Tool Kit wholeheartedly. They do the job, they are made well, and they hold up to the test of time and harsh environment they are used in. A seal of approval shall be granted.
Premium Coral Fragging Tool Kit sells for around 100 US dollars.
Apart from the reviewed kit, Tamsco also sells other fragging kits as well as individual tools made for saltwater use.
To learn more about Tamsco, see my MACNA 2018 Coverage
check their website http://www.tamsco.biz/